Devon Travis Has Completely Turned His Season Around
After a horrific month of April, the Toronto Blue Jays are trying to fight their way back into the AL East race. Of the few things that have been starting to go their way, second baseman Devon Travis has been busy climbing himself out of the deep hole he put himself in at the plate.
Travis hasn't had a full season yet in the majors due to shoulder problems that derailed his 2015 season, while knee issues caused him to miss time in the playoffs last season and almost held him off the opening day roster in 2017. Judging by how his year started, though, it would've almost been better if he began his season on the shelf.
His resurgence with the bat is needed greatly in Toronto, who currently ranks toward the bottom of the league in team wOBA. If the Blue Jays are going to give themselves a chance at sniffing the postseason for the third consecutive year, Travis will need to keep hitting closer to his overall performance in May than April.
A Month to Forget
Every ballplayer wants to get their respective seasons off on the right foot, but Travis did the complete opposite. Through his first 83 plate appearances in 2017, he mustered an OPS of just .388 (with a .130 batting average), which included only 3 extra-base hits and 6 walks. The young second baseman began the year as Toronto's leadoff hitter, but manager John Gibbons eventually moved him down to the ninth spot in the order while he struggled.
There was even some chatter that a stint in Triple-A could help him get back on track, and since he produced the absolute worst wRC+ among qualified hitters (2) during the first month, one would assume that was a valid option. However, more of a dive into some advanced metrics tell a bit of a different story.
His .179 wOBA was second worst in the league, but with a projected wOBA of .313, he was actually the biggest underachiever in baseball. If his wOBA ended up at the projected number instead of the actual number, he would've been on the same level as Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano, who didn't have awesome starts themselves, but a 92 wRC+ looks a lot better than the one he produced.
Flipping the Switch
Once April was officially in the rearview mirror, it seems as if Travis flipped a switch at the plate.
As mentioned before, he collected just three extra-base hits in the season's first month (two doubles and one home run). In addition to slashing .351/.364/.622 through 78 plate appearances, he's collected a total of 16 extra-base hits (14 doubles 2 home runs) with still about a week left to go. And instead of being among the worst in the league with regard to wRC+, his 163 mark during May is among the top-20 hitters, which is powered by a very impressive .411 wOBA.
Instead of being in the same group of struggling hitters like Curtis Granderson and Alcides Escobar -- like he was in April -- he's within shouting distance of hitters like Kris Bryant and Corey Dickerson. If we drill it down to strictly second basemen, he went from worst to second best, trailing only Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers (175 wRC+).
Part of Travis' turnaround can be attributed to using the whole field more often. His zone chart displays that he's doing damage on pitches over the middle of the plate, and he's going the opposite way rather often, which can be evidenced in his spray chart of doubles hit this month.
After an April in which they limped to a 9-17 record, the Blue Jays have begun the long climb back toward .500, and currently sit at 21-26. There is still a lot of work to do, and a lot of things need to go Toronto's way to actually get back to October. If that's going to come true, they'll need their second baseman to continue hitting like he has throughout his career and this month, not like he did through an incredibly rough first month.